It’s shaping up to a banner year for remote starters based on our short poll of retailers and suppliers.
Mickey Shorr, Pontiac, MI is up by double digits and Freeman’s Stereo Video, Charlotte, NC said sales are way up. Sound of Tri-State in Claymont, DE said its Directed Electronics business is up 25 percent over last year. World Wide Stereo, Hatfield, PA is up by double digits and its installation bays are booked three weeks further out than this time a year ago.
Yes, the cold winter in parts of the country can cause painful heating bills, but it’s helping the bottom line at many car electronics specialists.
Freeman’s said it sold twice as many entry level remote starters this season than it did for the 2009 season. And it’s seen sales gains for every remote start model it sells compared to a year ago.
“It’s all about the weather and the weather was perfect,” said Jeff Pitts of Mickey Shorr, adding, “What also helped was the excitement caused by the Viper SmartStart. We were very pleased with the sales velocity on it.”
Two other retailers said sales were accelerating on Directed Electronics’ SmartStart which can remote start your car from a smartphone.
Directed said it would not comment on sales but it did acknowledge that the SmartStart is moving well. Audiovox and FirstTech did not respond to our inquiry.
Car Toys, Seattle WA says the warm weather in the Pacific Northwest supressed remote start sales earlier in the season, but sales are now picking up since the weather turned colder. “It’s been a lot colder lately… and remote start product is picking up nicely,” said Jim Warren.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Some retailers note that there’s a balance they must strike between selling remote starters and car AV. If remote start business ramps up too steeply, then there’s no room in the bays for AV installs.
Sound of Tri-State said, this year, it saw a huge increase in remote starters only to find that it cut into sales of car AV products. Installers were in the bays until midnight working on remote start installs but AV was down by about 15 percent in units and so the chain was flat for the season.
Car Tunes Stereo Center near Detroit, MI had a similar experience last year. It pushed remote starters heavily, focusing on bargain models. Volume climbed, but AV sales suffered as did customer satisfaction. “Last year it shut down our AV business…. With 6 stores and 8,000 remote starts between October and February: you can’t get anything else in the bays,” said owner Mark Constaintakis. The store deliberately focused this year on higher end remote starters, so unit sales are down but profits are up and AV sales are better.